With March well underway, statistics say that most of us have given up on our New Year resolutions and goals. But why does our motivation vanish so easily? For most people, it’s because we mistake resolve for a decision, or worse, a vague hope. In reality, true resolve is a habit. Like exercise, laundry, or maintaining relationships, sustaining the resolve to achieve goals requires constant attention and effort. Just tacking a Post-It note on the wall isn’t enough, though. The best way to reach your goals is with more goals – SMART goals and daily goals. Here are four steps to achieve more with smart daily goals.
1. Articulate long term goals
The first step toward setting effective daily goals is to set a few long-term goals. Think of long-terms goals as your final destination, and daily goals as the vehicle maintenance that will carry you there safely and on time. And just as we don’t plan a trip by saying, “Let’s end up somewhere with beaches,” goal setting needs to include a bit of specificity. That’s where the SMART goals framework comes in. Articulate long-term goals in writing so that they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound. Failing to articulate any one of these aspects significantly increases the odds of demotivation and failure.
The SMART goals framework is also useful in the critical task of differentiating values from goals. “I want to be more knowledgeable” is a value. “In 2018 I want to read one book per month on topics related to my work,” is a goal. It’s important that goals are value-driven, but substituting values for goals is a recipe for failure by ambiguous ends.
2. Identify 5 – 10 daily goals to support long term goals
The next step is to set daily goals that support your long-term goals. SMART long-term goals are the anchors for daily, short-term goals. However, the two are mutually dependent. Long-term goals give purpose to daily goals; daily goals keep long-term goals from getting lost. Good daily goals should be specific (SMART) actions and activities that bring you closer to long-term goals. To continue with the book example from earlier, a daily goal could be to read for 30 minutes before work each day.
Beware of goal blinders, though. It’s useful to think outside the box with daily goals. If your goal is a promotion by the end of 2018, perhaps you would benefit from becoming a more organized person. As such, setting a daily goal once a week to clean you house/garage/desk/etc would be worth considering alongside more direct work-related goals. Also consider setting daily intentions. These will help keep your daily activities more in line with your values, and provide added energy and motivation for progress.
3. Schedule 10 minutes daily for setting and reviewing goals
It’s important to avoid setting daily goals and never changing them. This risks failure just as much as vague or unachievable goals. Instead, dedicate a notebook to recording goals and spend 10 minutes each morning (or the previous evening) setting goals for the new day and reviewing progress on goals from the previous day. Some goals may be constant members of the list, but make sure you reflect daily on your values and progress toward long-term goals, and then retrofit your daily goals to meet those needs. In addition to boosting progress toward long-term goals, being constantly in tune with your values and big picture goals will give you the perspective necessary to recognize new opportunities in places you might not have noticed them otherwise.
4. Track progress
One of the greatest motivation killers is the sense of stalled progress. However, progress can be hard to recognize when we’re caught up in it. This is where the Measurable part of SMART goals comes in. As you reflect on your goals, also track time and progress relevant to each. With time tracking, take note of how you’re spending your time and what produces the most significant results. When paired with daily goals and goal-specific progress measures, tracking time provides extensive insight into our own levels productivity and effectiveness. And this is key for creating even smarter goals, getting more done, and making goal achievement a habit rather than a hope.